Spring Break, Part IV: Powell Gardens

We arrived back in Warrensburg around supper time on Saturday.  We were sad to be done with vacation, but happy to be back in our own beds. I also had the terrifying realization that this was the last trip I’ll be able to take as a student. From now on, whatever job I take will only offer 2 weeks of vacation a year. When we got back in town, I noticed that the flowers were starting their downward slide past their prime. I hadn’t taken any Spring photos yet this year, so I decided to go to Powell Gardens the next day.

I had only been to Powell Gardens once before. We took a field trip there for my nature and scenic class. Unfortunately when we did so, it was 105 degrees and in August, so everything was brown. I figured I would check out what they had to offer in Spring. Normally when photographing nature, the best hours to shoot are sunrise and sunset, since the light is a soft, golden quality. Powell Gardens, however, is only open from 10am-5pm, so I didn’t get very good lighting, as it was a hot, cloudless day. All-in-all, I got a few good images and a sunburn.

orchids © Holly Hildreth 2012

Orchids in the indoor welcome center. Orchids are one of my favorite flowers, but I have never tried growing them, as I have always heard they are a bit difficult to care for...(and seeing as I killed cacti 4 times before, I didn't ever attempt more delicate plants).

orchids © Holly Hildreth 2012

Tulips © Holly Hildreth 2012

Flowering Tree © Holly Hildreth 2012

Daffodils Flowering © Holly Hildreth 2012

Tulips © Holly Hildreth 2012

Flowers © Holly Hildreth 2012

Panoramic of Flowers © Holly Hildreth 2012

Panoramic of Flowers and bench

I’m back in school now, and the semester’s rapidly winding down. I’m trying to do as much shooting as I can before I graduate and no longer have access to a studio, lights, and lenses. I “graduate” in one month. (I don’t technically graduate until I finish a Summer class, but there is no Summer graduation, so I get to take part in the Spring commencement ceremony).

More photos of recent work coming soon, and don’t worry, I’ve got a set of Stoli photos headed your way.

All Images © Holly Hildreth 2012 | http://www.hhildrethphoto.wordpress.com

Spring Break, Part III: Chicago

We started our full-on tour of Chicago on Thursday morning. I had been to Chicago a few times before, but the last time I was there was for Lollapalooza back in the summer of 2009, (but we were just there for the music–not the sight seeing). Previous to that, the last time I actually took in the sights of Chicago was on a band trip in 2007. So needless to say, it’d been quite a while since I actually did touristy things in Chi-Town

We started by meeting up with Andrew’s friend, Ryan, who lives and works in Chicago. Ryan knew all the best places to eat, and he took us to an authentic German restaurant, The Brahaus. Despite growing up in a mainly German town in northeast Iowa, I had never had German food before. (And those of you that know me, know I’m am usually skeptical when it comes to trying foods that I cannot pronounce.) The restaurant was quite authentic–the waitstaff was all from “the old country” and spoke in thick German accents, and the only drink choices were either beer or water. I ordered the hüner schnitzel (basically boneless, breaded, fried chicken, German style) and it came with leberknödel suppe, which is a bowl of liver and dumpling soup. At first I stared wide-eyed at the grey mass in the soup bowl before me, but after trying a few bites, I discovered that I actually liked it.

Next we were off to the Shedd Aquarium. We were surprised to have to stand in line to get in at 1:30pm on a Thursday. The place was very busy, which made photographing quite difficult. I snapped a few pictures while waiting in line.

Chicago Skyline © Holly Hildreth 2012

Chicago Skyline, with a storm building up in the background

I had been to the Shedd before, but it had been probably 9 years or so. They had done a lot of remodeling and adding on, which was a nice surprise. I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked to, because you had to wait your turn to see the animals on display at some of the exhibits, and the bigger animals (dolphins, belugas, sea otters,) were off display as they were doing training, so we didn’t get to see them at all.

 © Holly Hildreth 2012

© Holly Hildreth 2012

Scuba Diver © Holly Hildreth 2012

Scuba Diver feeding the fish and cleaning the tank

When we got our tickets, we opted to pay the extra $3 to see the jellyfish exhibit, and I am so glad we did, as it was my favorite part of the day. Jellyfish are very tricky to photograph as they’re constantly moving and mostly kept in low-light tanks, but I am happy with the images I got.

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

Jellyfish © Holly Hildreth 2012

While we were touring the aquarium, it decided to come up and rain. Luckily it was starting to clear up as we were leaving. Our next destination was the Sears (Willis) Tower. We had paid a parking meter $10 to park for 4 hours at the aquarium, and we still had 2 hours left on our time, so we (foolishly) decided to walk to the Sears Tower and back.

Us © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andy and I outside the Shedd Aquarium after the storm passed

Lake Michigan © Holly Hildreth 2012

Lake Michigan and part of the Chicago Skyline

Lake Michigan © Holly Hildreth 2012

Gratuitous flower photo

So we walked to the Sears Tower. Poor choices all around. It was vastly farther than any of us figured. Ryan’s phone told us it was 1.2 miles. After getting home and looking on Google, we discovered it was a 4+ mile round-trip. We got our tour of the city, and I got my fill of the “wild life”.  The last part of the walk was difficult as it was rush hour and we were fighting a crowd, going the opposite direction against the flow. We finally got to the Sears Tower (I still can’t bring myself to call it “The Willis Tower”.) Luckily, we came at the right time and there was no line to get in. We were able to grab our tickets and go right up without any wait. Due to the rain, we weren’t able to see as far as you could on a clear day, but it was still a sight.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

South Chicago and the Chicago River

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Panoramic of the South side of Chicago and Lake Michigan

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Northeast side of Chicago (Hancock Observatory is the tall black building in the middle/slightly right side of the photo).

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Looking down. We later found out that the building in the bottom left corner with the grass on the roof is where Andrew's sister works. We stayed with her while we were in Chicago.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

Andy in the new glass overhangs. These were new since the last time I'd been there. If you look down, you definitely get vertigo. Still really neat.

Sears Willis Tower © Holly Hildreth 2012

After our sight-seeing at the Tower, we made our walk back. My feet were ground down to bloody pulps by the time we reached the car and completed out 4+ mile urban trek. We were absolutely exhausted. We dropped Ryan off at his house and then made our way to Andy’s sisters’ for the night. His sister, Mary, took us out for Greek food. (I had also never had Greek food. Go ahead, gasp. I came from a small town in Iowa. We don’t exactly have anything but corn and beef at our dinner tables.) We walked (oh the agony) to The Athenian Room. I decided to try the Kalamata Chicken. The 1/2 chicken is served on a bed of fries with sauce. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually really good. It had a lemon+vinegar taste. After supper, we walked back to Mary’s (my feet were worn ground down past the ankle by this time,) and we were so exhausted that we basically passed out as soon as we got in the door.

The next morning we met for lunch with Ryan at an Italian restaurant where he works in Harlington Heights. We planned to tour the Field Museum next as it was pouring rain outside. After lunch, we headed toward downtown, but got stuck in stand-still traffic. After an hour and a half, we had only gone 4 of the 8 miles to our destination. By the time we hit our exit for the Museum, we realized we’d only have an hour to look around and decided that for the price of admission, we wouldn’t get our money’s worth by only being there for such a short time. So, we decided to keep driving. We met Andy’s parents in Bloomington, IL, for supper. We ate at Jim’s Steakhouse, which is absolutely amazing every time. After supper, we drove to Mt. Pulaski, IL, to Andy’s parents and stayed the night. The next morning we were headed home.

Part IV, coming soon.

All Images © Holly Hildreth 2012 | http://www.hhildretphoto.wordpress.com

Spring Break 2011

Most people don’t think of Waverly, IA as a Spring Break destination. In fact, as most of my classmates talked about their exotic vacation plans, I kept my trek to the homeland under wraps, because everyone knows that only cool kids go to Iowa for Spring Break. So I left Missouri’s 75+ degree weather and traded it in for a 6 1/2 hour drive north to snow piles and highs in the low 30’s. I brought Stoli with me. Normally he cries and paces on long drives, but a quick stop to the vet for anti-motion sickness medicine relaxed him and he was great. (A little out of it too..He brought me a mouth full of rocks and then flopped on his side just staring at me.) Stoli loved the family and I have a feeling they liked him more than they will admit. Stoli’s favorite part of the trip, however, was chasing my sister’s cat, cooper. (Cooper was not pleased.)

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

After the trip home, I returned to Missouri a few days early to take a sever storm spotter training class. We’re required to attend a safety class outside of the normal university meeting time for one of my gen ed classes. Storm Spotter Training in Missouri is…well…intersting. These hillbillies lose it. It’s like Christmas for them, so not only was it educational, but a great time to people watch. (But that’s a whole different story.)

My boyfriend, Andrew and I have been trying to celebrate our one-year anniversary for quite a while. The plan was to go to St. Louis as a mini-vacation. I have only been to St. Louis once, but it was night time and I was young enough to not remember. Our Anniversary was January 23rd, and we just got there this weekend, over 2 months later. It wasn’t for a lack of trying on our part. The first time Andrew scheduled his leave and the trip as a surprise, but it was right in the middle of my finals week, so we had to cancel. The next time we made reservations, the Air Force screwed us over and put travel restrictions on us due to “impending blizzards,” so we had to cancel yet again. (It never snowed a single flake, by the way.) The last time we scheduled our trip, Stoli got sick with an advanced bladder infection and upper respiratory infection, which set us back $225 in vet bills. Fourth Time’s a charm, I guess.

The trip was not all a walk in the park. I think someone was trying to keep us from getting to St. Louis (we apparently didn’t catch on after getting turned away 3 times!) When we left Warrensburg the forecast called for light snow with little to no accumulation. Things were fine until we switched drivers about 2/3 of the way there. I started driving the last part of the journey as as soon as I did, all Hell broke loose. It got mega snowy and icy in a heartbeat. There we lots of cars and semis in the ditch. I was driving 40 in a 70 mph zone and passing cars like they were standing still.

© Holly Hildreth 2011

View from our balcony of the snow

We made it to our hotel safely, but they didn’t get our room right. Although the room wasn’t what we had reserved, it was still really very nice. The hotel was full–there was a plastic surgeon convention staying there and they must have gotten everything mixed up room-wise.

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

We didn’t bring swimming suits or anything to do in the hotel as we didn’t figure we’d be there a whole lot other than to sleep, but with the blizzard-o-death outside, we were sort of stuck on ideas of what to do. We explored the hotel from the pool to the cigar lounge. I wanted to take pictures, but andrew wouldn’t let me. Something about already being totally out of place…( I would have liked to have seen all the old rich American Royalty getting their mustaches in a bunch over it.)

The snow calmed down a bit once the sun went down and we decided to hit the city. Andrew’s dad had suggested a nice restaurant downtown by the arch called Mike Shannon’s. We dressed up and decided to give it a try

(I didn't take this photo, but I wanted to show what the restaurant looked like.)

I had filet mignon and Andrew had the prime rib. It was amazing! After supper we explored the city a bit, but it was still nasty out, so we headed back to the hotel and watched some TV. We called it in early as we were both really tired.

The next morning we got up and headed out for lunch. We originally stopped at a BBQ place, but the line was ridiculous as it had been featured on the travel channel and voted best BBQ in St. Louis. We settled for a T.G.I. Friday’s near where we had eaten supper the previous night. After that we headed over to the arch.

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011

© Holly Hildreth 2011We got to the arch at around 12:30. They were ALREADY SOLD OUT OF TICKETS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY! We weren’t able to do anything other than look around on the main level. Andrew and I milled around the museum and walked the campus outside the arch and then headed out. The original plan was to go to the zoo, but it was only in the low 40’s and was very windy, so we decide against that. Instead, we went to the St. Louis Art Museum. I had been to the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City a fair few times and decided that I’d like to see what St. Louis had to offer. I was surprised that Andrew wanted to go too. Normally getting him to go to anything cultural is like pulling teeth (for lack of a better idiom.) When we got their, we found out to my dismay, they had gotten rid of ALL their photography! I like looking at paintings and sculptures, but photography is pretty much the whole reason I go to art museums. We spent about an hour looking around. I love taking andrew to the modern abstract art. Rothko and Jackson Pollak make him want to beat up hippies.

We decided to head home after the art museum. It was nice to be back in Warrensburg and to see Stoli again. All in all we had a really good trip, despite all the hiccups. I’d like to go back and visit St. Louis again as there were many things we didn’t get to see and do. We both really enjoyed our very belated anniversary. It was great to get out of warrensburg and see the world (even if it is still in Missouri!)